Obama’s presidency isn’t over until the end of next year, yet rumors already are swirling about who he might pardon.
One name in particular keeps surfacing: Ethel Rosenberg, a dedicated communist and convicted espionage conspirator.
Willing to die for the Soviet cause along with her husband, Julius, in 1953, she is now receiving belated honors by misguided individuals and organizations that are more comfortable with claims based on emotional propaganda than actual historical evidence.
The current campaign was sparked by her brother and co-conspirator, David Greenglass, who later said he lied about Ethel’s involvement to protect his wife, Ruth. It was Ruth, not Ethel, who typed his notes about aspects of the highly secret Manhattan atom-bomb project that were turned over to KGB operatives.
There’s a New York City Council proclamation calling for an “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan,” and a forthcoming segment of “60 Minutes” that will endeavor to show Ethel received an unfair trial and never should have been executed.
This is true — the trial was not a model of American jurisprudence and she was not deserving of execution.
But a presidential pardon would be wrong. Whatever the trial’s faults, Ethel was a staunch Soviet supporter and integrally involved in her husband’s espionage activities.
I and many other scholars who have studied the extensive Rosenberg case record are uniform in the belief that Julius Rosenberg had directed a highly efficient coterie of like-minded electrical engineers who stole military and industrial secrets from their employers and secreted them to Julius’ Soviet handlers. Critical items such as computers, anti-aircraft weapons, jet engines and the proximity fuse (which would eventually be used to shoot down an American U2 plane) were all passed to Soviet intelligence officers. Ethel was aware of all of it.